Post 49, Sargana, Ludhiana

Zaheeb Ajmal reports:

9:45 a.m.: Mahadev Yadav is at his shop, muffler wrapped around his head, investigating a tyre that has been delivered at his for repairs. A man, likely to be in his thirties, walks up to him: he is wearing a high neck T-shirt and a pair of jeans. Twirling a keyring on his index finger, he asks Mahadev Yadav, “Uncle, do you remember me?”

Flustered, Mahadev Yadav replies, “Of course I remember you. How can I forget? But you will have to wait awhile.”

His visitor, Kalru Ram, becomes agitated: “This is not done. You should have told my father when you borrowed the cash that you would pay him in six months, not three. You told us last month that you could repay the loan this month.  Now please give me a date, and stick to it.”

“When are you leaving for Punjab?” Mahadev Yadav asks his visitor, trying to assuage him.

“In about two months,” the visitor replies.

Mahadev Yadav is relieved: “You will have your money before you leave.”

Kalru Ram persists: “Oh come on. My father should never have loaned you the money. Not only are you not paying any interest on it, but the delay is really hurting us. We are trapped because of you.”

Mahadev Yadav now changes the topic: “When did you return from Punjab?”

The trick works. Kalru Ram informs us that it has been ten days since he has been back.

I didn’t want to return. I had planned to stay on for two further months. If I had, I would have earned INR 16,000: As a pehredar responsible for supervising other agricultural workers, I easily earn between INR 8,000 and INR 10,000 per month when I am there. But demonetisation hurt us badly. No employer had the money to pay their workers. Mine kept telling me to either wait or to take my wages in the older now-illegal currency. I accepted the old currency notes, but asked him to allow me leave of absence for two months. He didn’t have much of a choice, so he agreed. [Looking towards Mahadev Yadav] And here, we have debtors who refuse to settle their debts…

Sensing the turn the conversation was about to take, Mahadev Yadav remembered an urgent chore and hurried away.